Interview with author S. Andrew Swann

  1. Can you describe yourself, say a little about where you’re located or whatever else you feel is basic info.

My educational background is in mechanical engineering, and aside from the writing I currently work as a database manager for a child services agency outside Cleveland Ohio. I’ve been writing professionally, mostly for DAW books, since the early nineties. I’m married and have too many animals; two cats, two boxers, three sheep and a horse.

  1. Can you give us an overview of your work? Where to start?

I have a bad habit of genre-hopping all over the place. I’ve done SF, fantasy and horror. When I suggest a starting point to anyone I generally ask them “what do you like?” If you like gritty near-future SF, I’d suggest the Moreau Quartet (Volumes One and Two). If you like space opera, there’s the Hostile Takeover & Apotheosis Trilogies. If you’re into horror or historical fiction you can try Wolfbreed. If you like humorous fantasy you can try the Dragon* books. If you like time-travel, urban fantasy, zombies or steampunk, you can try my latest book, Marked.

    3. What genre/genres do you write in and why? Are these the same genres you like to read?

As I’ve said, I’m all over the place. Mostly I do science-fiction and fantasy or stuff that straddles the gray area between them. My SF has tended toward space opera, and my fantasy has been more varied but leans toward portal/secondary world stories. It does have a lot to do with what I like to read.

  1. How did you come to be interested in writing?

The answer to that is lost in the mists of time. But it probably has to do with a family that has an interest in writing (though my parents were into writing poetry, not prose) and a healthy love for the written word. There’ve always been books around me.

  1. Can you tell us about your latest work? Who is it about? What happens?

Marked is about a woman, Dana Rohan, who has a tattoo-like mark on her back that allows her to go to alternate pasts and futures. She doesn’t know the source of the mark and she’s kept it hidden from those around her. She’s built a life as a police detective, where she’s secretly used the mark’s powers to help her in her job. Her life is upended when an apparently crazy man accosts her, speaking a language she doesn’t know, and is abruptly killed by an armored swordsman coming out of nowhere. The dead man bears a mark like her own. Soon after, she’s chased by zombie-like creatures bearing their own perverse marks, and is racing through myriad alternate worlds in a quest to find out about the mark and her own past.

  1. How do you go about researching for a story? Do you do anything special when you research? Is it all online?

It really depends on the story and what needs to be researched. It can range from a Google search to amassing a small reference library. I’ve looked up old newspapers on microfilm for a vampire novel set against backdrop of the torso murders in the thirties, to writing a database to keep track of stellar colonies and the distance between them for the Hostile Takeover books. Really obscure stuff doesn’t always find its way to the Google panopticon.

  1. What appeals to you about writing?

It justifies the weird daydreams I’ve had since I was a kid. I get to build these intricate worlds and then have a blast tearing them apart. My favorite thing is to have a character deal with something that wasn’t supposed to happen.

    8. What do you find the hardest about being a writer? Which parts drag for you?

Marketing and dealing with social media. I really want to be a recluse and have someone else handle all that. Alas, that’s not how things work nowadays.

  1. What is your writing routine? Do you write every day, at a particular time of the day? Is it difficult to discipline yourself?

I almost always write in the mornings before eight. Sessions might last until ten on the weekends. It’s the only way I’ve been able to carve out time consistently around the other job. Fortunately, discipline isn’t much of an issue for me after doing this a quarter century.

  1. How do you put the story together? Do you write an outline? Start writing and edit later? Wait for the muse to strike? Or something in-between?

I’ve done seat-of-the-pants writing where I just wrote one page after another, and I’ve done intricate detailed outlines. Though the outlines have often been more for editors than myself. I’ve been able to keep a novel outline in my head as I write, though as I get older more of it is finding its way on to paper. (One interesting tidbit: The heavily-plotted, multi-POV, multi-planet epic of the Apotheosis Trilogy was written by the seat of the pants, while the comparatively slight 70K volume first-person fantasy Dragon*Princess had the most detailed outline I ever wrote for a book.)

  1. Who are some of your favorite authors? Books that have influenced you?

A lot of my personal weirdness can be put down to reading the Illumniatus! trilogy at an impressionable age. As to writerly influences, those are varied from Robert Heinlein to Stephen King. Marked, my latest book, is heavily influenced by Roger Zelazny’s Amber novels. Favorite authors I’m reading right now include Alastair Reynolds, Gregg Hurwitz and Joe Hill.

  1. Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to be a writer?

Keep writing. And keep writing new stuff. However the market changes and however you find readers and get paid, those will always be the first two rules of a successful writing career. Most failed writers failed because they stopped writing.

See Marked, Swann’s latest book, on Amazon.